(NEW YORK) — Every parent knows that a child’s teacher can make or break the school year. But what can parents do to empower their children in the classroom for the best possible outcome?
National Teacher of the Year Mandy Manning currently teaches English at Joel E. Farris High School in Spokane, Washington. Many of her students are either refugees or newly arrived immigrants. Manning helps them process trauma through experiential projects such as map-making, cultural sharing, and group dialogue.
Manning shared six key tips exclusively with “Good Morning America” on how parents can help empower their child in the classroom just in time for Teacher Appreciation Week.
“We must work together, as educators and as parents, to best meet the needs of our kids,” she explained. “Ensuring your child’s success in the classroom and beyond takes a partnership.”
1. Be open to teacher feedback
While it’s easy to discredit a teacher’s ability to empathize with the valid complexities of parenting, a willingness to listen to the observations of the educator is key for mutual, collaborative improvement, Manning said.
“Only when we respect each other’s position and knowledge can we work in partnership to solve the problem and support the child in finding success,” she explained.
2. Get involved and offer your talents
Teachers need all the help they can get, according to Manning. When parents choose to volunteer their time or resources, it makes the learning process that much more effective. She suggests parents of younger students assist with field trips and school functions. For older students, parents should be proactive and also connect with the educators to see what type of one-on-one tutoring could be helpful at home, she said.
“Every family has unique talents to bring to the classroom,” Manning said. “Get into the classrooms, as an expert. Show off a little. Make your child proud.”
3. Maintain dialogue with the teacher
Is there an upcoming family celebration the educator should be aware of? Is there an ongoing personal problem that might impact the student’s attentiveness? Trials and triumphs at home inevitably affect the classroom experience, so share what you can with the teacher so that they can have both the awareness and sensitivity to properly operate around the information given, Manning told “GMA.”
“Context is key to understanding a child’s behavior,” she explained. “When we keep each other informed, we can best meet every need our children have. For example, if you know your child is chatty and will struggle with taking turns and raising her or his hand before speaking, practice turn-taking at home. Encourage her/him not to interrupt at the dinner table, and to practice active listening. Or, if your child is particularly quiet and will struggle with group work, practice at home by doing collaborative projects together, and encouraging her/him to confidently assert her or his ideas.”
4. Be present
Though it is common for both parents to juggle full-time jobs in this day and age, make every effort to attend, support, and encourage your student’s interests and extracurricular activities, Manning said.
“This doesn’t mean you must attend every concert, event, or sports activity. Show up a few times. Cheer on your child,” she said. “You might see your child’s teacher there, too. It means so much to kids, builds their confidence and gives them pride to see your face in the crowd.”
5. Monitor tech use at home
Addiction to electronics, whether that’s video games or smartphones, inevitably impacts the student’s ability to focus in class, Manning told “GMA.” The key, she said, is to ensure these devices do not interrupt the sleep and rest needed for a full day’s work.
“One solution is to make sleeping spaces tech-free zones, with no TV or gaming equipment. Set a specific time at night to turn off all electronics. Keep the family’s phones plugged in together at night in a central location and have computers stationed in a designated location for homework.”
6. Ensure healthy time management and organization early on
Positive routines help prevent students from feeling overwhelmed when deadlines arise, Manning said.
“Beginning in the early grades and continuing throughout your child’s school career, have your child immediately unpack their backpack when they get home from school, giving you any notes or reminders from school and going through their homework,” she explained. “Help them to set up a system for their work. If they begin to practice these skills in the early grades and continue to practice them throughout their school life, the organization will become a habit and help them tremendously in meeting deadlines and being successful both in school and in their adult lives.”
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